Independence Gets a Lift <br>From Britain’s Monarchy <br>As the Brexit Talks Begin
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
“The world is your oyster.” So opined Britain’s former trade envoy, Prince Andrew, the Duke of York. Asked about UK firms’ attitude toward Brexit, the Duke spoke of their guarded optimism. “You can either look at it as a glass half-empty — which is: ‘Oh my God, why have we done this?’ Or you could look at it as a glass half-full, which is: ‘Okay, that’s where we are. There are opportunities that we’ve got to make.’ So . . . you may lose one thing but you may gain something else.”
Fleet Street is not remiss in reporting this as the first major intervention on the EU exit by a senior member of the Royal Family. But as The New York Sun editorialized March last year as “Elizabeth’s Finest Hour,” the Queen herself “backs Britain leaving the European Union.” This story was confirmed in December, when a BBC reporter revealed that Her Majesty had at a luncheon retorted, “I don’t see why we can’t just get out. What’s the problem?”
Her Majesty will start to get answers today, as her Minister of the Department for Exiting the European Union, David Davis, meets with his continental counterpart, Michel Barnier. Meetings will continue throughout the summer and autumn, with parties drawing up exit plans in Whitehall and Brussels each month, and conferring together once a week about progressing UK-EU negotiations.
EU bureaucrats may have thought that, with Britain’s ruling Conservatives weakened after a failed electoral gambit and reduced to a hung Parliament, the oyster was theirs for the eating. But, true to form, they have misread the British people’s determination for freedom.
For while Brussels plans Phase 1 discussions to focus solely on “citizens’ rights and the UK’s financial obligations”, with trade and marketplace issues to comprise Phase 2 at a later date (contingent upon British compliance with EU concerns), their UK counterparts will have none of it. A DExEu spokesman declared that “our view is that withdrawal agreement and terms of the future relationship must be agreed alongside each other. We are clear this is what is set out in Article 50.”
So determined are Her Majesty’s Eurosceptic ministers to defend their scepter’d realm that a whispered coup is in the works if Prime Minister May backtracks on her “Brexit means Brexit” promise; with other Tory MPs giving their beleaguered premier, following the election debacle and her “cold fish” response to the Grenfell Tower blaze (where as many as fifty-eight residents may have died), a ten-day window to “shape up or step down as leader.”
One sign of the stiffening Brexit resolve is the announcement by the Government’s leader in the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom, that this session of Parliament would last a full two years without prorogation, to concentrate on exiting the EU and re-engaging with the wider world. “The issue is that we have an enormous job to do to make a success of Brexit,” the House Leader said.
This means no Queen’s Speech — where the monarch formally opens a Parliamentary session and outlines the Government’s agenda for the coming year — for 2018. As it is, at the State Opening of Parliament Wednesday, Queen Elizabeth will forgo the royal procession by coach to Westminster and “dress down,” i.e., no Imperial State Crown, when she presents an abbreviated address to assembled politicians.
Lèse–majesté, you say? Hardly. There’s work to be done and no one need tell the Queen where her responsibilities lie. As Government ministers prepare the ground to cut ties with the EU and foster new trade relationships with it and the rest of the world, they can benefit from the optimism for independence emanating from the House of Windsor.
“We’ve been concentrating on twenty-seven countries, if you take that as an internal market,” Prince Andrew says, but “there’s an external market that’s a lot bigger.” He cites the 52 Commonwealth countries, China, and the United States (The New York Sun would add Israel, India, and Singapore to this “liberty bloc”). Says the Prince: “Many businesses hadn’t looked over that garden fence to some extent. And actually, getting over the fence, there might be some fresh grass out there.” Call it oysters in the grass.